Debate: Occupy Wall Street vs Spring99% Co-optation?


APRIL 13, 2012

There is a debate going on right now within certain progressive activist circles and communities around the country. It’s a debate generally between Occupy Wall Street activists and supporters with those individuals and groups that have coalesced around a loose network called Spring99%.

There are accusations from Occupy folks that Spring99% is trying to co-opt the OWS movement.  That MoveOn is a front for the Democratic Party. And there are denials both from activists within the Spring99% network and members of the Occupy movement itself. It is a needed debate, even though it’s probably under the radar for many progressives and irrelevant for mainstream politics – except for the accusations that Spring99% is a front for the Obama re-election campaign. Meanwhile, paranoia of being co-opted has been a mainstay within the anti-Wall Street movement for months.

Here are half a dozen or so articles from various sources that either address or explain two of the sides of this debate. Following these articles, is another piece about local trainings and a link to sign-up:

 #1.) Who Is Spring99%? An Open Letter to America

By 99%Spring

The 99% Spring was launched February 15 with the following letter signed by over 40 movement leaders and organizations.

 Things should never have reached this point.

 Every day, the American Dream seems a little farther away. More of our grandparents are being thrown from their homes. Our mothers and fathers can’t retire because their pension funds tanked. Our brothers and sisters are burdened by student loan debt. For our children, budget cuts have resulted in crumbling schools, skyrocketing class sizes, and teachers being denied the supports they need to do their best. Our friends and family are being denied collective bargaining rights in their workplaces and are falling further and further behind. Our neighbors are being poisoned by pollution in our air and water.

For the remainder of this article, please go to 99%Spring.

#2.)  99%Spring is a bust at co-opting Occupy Wall Street

by resa / Daily Kos / April 11, 2012

Everyone knows that I’m a big fan of Van Jones, and it’s not just because he’s hot. That’s not why I chose to participate in 99% Spring, however.

 I’m not one of those people who goes around worrying allot about co-option. I assume that if we all have the same goals, it doesn’t matter much. [I was looking forward to non-violent training. I like the idea that there might be a more structured option that allows individuals to engage with the 99% movement. I went into this with an open mind.] I didn’t think that 99%Spring was out to co-opt Occupy Wall Street.

For the remainder of this article, please go to Daily Kos.

#3.) 99 Percent Spring: the Latest MoveOn Front for the Democratic Party

by THE INSIDER / counterpunch / March 16-18, 2012

A new social movement has arrived on the scene and it even has a sexy brand: “The 99% Spring.”

Combining the “99 percent” meme, made famous by the Occupy Wall Street movement, with the “Arab Spring” meme, made famous through the ongoing struggle for democratic rights in the Arab world, the organizers of the movement say they will attempt to carry the momentum created in these social movements forward in the coming weeks and months ahead.

This is exciting stuff, to say the very least.

For the remainder of this article, please go to counterpunch.

#4.)  The “99% Spring” Movement to Train 100,000 Activists: Co-Opting Occupy or Helping Spread its Message?

By Jake Olzen / AlterNet / March 26, 2012

Despite borrowing a few of the Occupy movement’s favorite slogans, the massive and controversial effort known as the 99% Spring is coming from the institutional left.

 Next month, activists and organizers across the country are planning to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action for what they call The 99% Spring. But despite borrowing one or two of the Occupy movement’s favorite slogans, The 99% Spring hasn’t been called for by any general assembly. Rather, this massive and controversial effort is coming from the institutional left — a diverse coalition of labor unions, environmental and economic justice groups, community organizations and trainers’ alliances. While some celebrate what appears to be a mainstreaming of resistance thanks to Occupy, others are crying co-option.

For the remainder of this article, please go here to AlterNet.

#5)  Occupy Wall Street Activists Respond to the 99 Percent Spring

By Allison Kilkenny / The Nation / April 6, 2012

Seizing on the popularity of Occupy Wall Street, a broad coalition of liberal-left groups and organizations created the 99 Percent Spring, a movement aiming to recruit and train 100,000 Americans to learn the ways of non-violent direct action. The initiative includes support from, AFL-CIO, Greenpeace, the Working Families Party,, Campaign for America’s Future, United Students Against Sweatshops, CodePink, Global Exchange and Color of Change, among other groups.

The plan has been heavily promoted by celebrities such as Edward Norton, Elijah Wood, Marisa Tomei and Jason Alexander and political heavyweights like Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the Dream.

For the remainder of this article, please go to The Nation here.

#6) Occupy Wall Street and MoveOn Go Together Like Woodstock and 1999

 By Mobutu Sese SekoSese  / Gawker / March 27, 2012

A funny thing happened in a New York Magazine blog post last Friday. In a piece on Occupy Wall Street’s upcoming plans, reporter Joe Coscarelli made a little mistake. He wrote:

 …next month will bring “99 percent Spring Action Training” across the country. “In April we will train 100,000 people in nonviolent action,” the group’s site says. “It’s an audacious plan, but movements can do great things when everyone works together.” Backed by organizations like Greenpeace,, and the United Auto Workers, the preparation is meant to culminate in the general strike on May 1.

 Here’s the problem: May’s general strike belongs to the nationwide Occupy movement, the grassroots rejection of co-opted corporate politics. “The 99 Percent Spring”-which makes no mention of May 1-is astroturf. It’s Occupy Wall Street brought to you by, the people who send you 17 emails per week asking you to sign milquetoast petitions or read unctuous defenses of whatever castrated legislation Harry Reid has limply waved at the opposition. These are different beasts.

For the remainder of this article, please go here to Gawker.

#7)  Why my experience as an organizer for MoveOn doesn’t give me confidence about its role in Spring99%

By a local Southern California activist

I joined MoveOn in the Spring of 2011, excited by the national group’s emphasis on jobs. I had gone to a local Southern Californian  house meeting and signed up. We worked on something called Rebuild the American Dream and a new contract for Americans that addressed many current and needed issues.  I liked the progressive stands that the organization and all the other groups were taken.  We were part of a great, progressive national coalition. I was then made an organizer for a local chapter.

Over the course of the next few months, we organized small rallies at local Congressional offices, attended primarily by mainly older, white activists. We started building up our email lists and kept having a of couple meetings every month in various homes around the area. And after doing this for a while, I started seeing problems in how MoveOn operates.

First, their national agenda was primary.  Any local issues definitely took a back seat. We were told we had to organize these gatherings at Congressional offices to keep the pressure on Congress during their recess. We were told we had to keep organizing the house meetings – filled with new people.  But we didn’t have time to develop our chapter and focus on local issues that may have attracted local activists.

MoveOn’s emphasis on these “house meetings” undermined our own efforts at stabilizing our chapter.  I came to the conclusion that after all the years that MoveOn has been around, they still don’t know how to do chapter building, and genuine leadership development. The nation-wide group claims they have 5 to 6 million members. But they’re paper members. When I tried to contact the supposed 100 official members of our chapter, I received almost no response. I had to essentially build the chapter from scratch.

I began to see how decisions we made at the chapter level were not necessarily allowed to stand.  For example, our local chapter decided to focus on a particular campaign around jobs targeting a local large employer. But this was secondary we were told. We had to follow the dictates of our Regional and Field Organizers.  Which we then tried to do.  But our local focus fell apart.

At one rally, I passed around a bucket for donations in order for us to pay for the costs of our fliers, etc. I was told we could not do any local fund raising. WTF?  How were we to raise monies for our expenses? This question was never answered.  It was frowned upon just passing the hat at our chapter meetings.

And in fact, any assistance from our state-wide and regional organizers was pretty much nil.  For their national focus on jobs, for example, MoveOn had not one policy paper nor even one pamphlet to send us. They never sent us any monies.  We had to find certain documents on the internet.

There are lots of great people in MoveOn. But I came to see that overall the group is very top-down, undemocratic, not very transparent, and fairly manipulative of their members – those that actually exist.  MoveOn does not understand how to create, maintain, and have chapters evolve organically.

Initially, like many activist organizations, MoveOn did support the early Occupy movement actions in town. But the group does not have much resources at the local level and didn’t have much to offer – outside of helping to lead a couple of actions against banks – which was good. We would have these actions, but there was no strategy, no follow-up.

The obvious membership problems with MoveOn – white and aged – are not really addressed. I want to see a MoveOn that is more diverse, more militant, more democratic, more transparent, and not just an extension of the Obama re-election campaign.  Until those changes occur, I don’t have much confidence that MoveOn can carry out these Spring99% activities. It is true that there is like 80 groups nation-wide part of the network. But at the local level, it’s always MoveOn.

Who will then get to decide where all that training will be exercised?

99% Spring Action Training

by MoveOn

 We’re at a crossroads as a country. In recent years, millions have lost their jobs, homes have been foreclosed, and an unconscionable number of children live in poverty. We have to stand up to the people who caused of all this and confront the rampant greed and deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%.

 Inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the fight for workers in Madison, Wisconsin, the 99% will rise up this spring. In the span of just one week, from April 9-15, 100,000 people will be trained to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.

 We’ll gather for trainings in homes, community centers, places of worship, campuses, and public spaces nationwide to learn how to join together in the work of reclaiming our country through sustained non-violent action.

 Will you rise with us and join a 99% Spring action training?  Go here to sign up for the training.